1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)
    Caluwe - Passion for Fire and Water ( Pellet and Wood Hydronic and Space Heating)

Virgin iron ore - or recycled?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by MikoDel, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. MikoDel

    MikoDel Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2008
    Messages:
    46
    Loc:
    Fort Washington, Pennsylvania
    I own an old pre-1988 Intrepid, from Vermont Castings. We "usurped" it from our first house because we love it so much. God does that little sucker put out some heat!!
    I've torn it down, put it back together, wire-wheeled each cast iron panel until it looked fresh from the foundry. I am intimately familiar with its fine, smooth surfaces and gorgeous casting details. But the most impressive thing is, IT'S PRE-1988!! Really, really good iron. So if comes a time when I have to replace this stove, it would be such a disappointment to usher in something I pay a lot for, and then find is just sub-par.

    Like many others here asking "What's a good stove?", I have been casually searching different manufacturers thru the years, looking for differences, subtle or not. And eventually I learned about the concept of virgin iron ore. I read that almost all cast stoves now are made from recycled cast iron. I personally have some experience with this, because replacement parts for my Intrepid literally "melt" within a year or two. The original upper fireback, for example, lasted from 1987 until 2010 - 23 years. The only reason I swapped it out was because the "teeth" that space the wood away from the damper had worn away. The new upper fireback part I sourced in 2010 lasted about TWO years, then became a grotesque caricature of its own form. Now the damper cannot seal because the frame in which it sits is so distorted that there are no sides to close against. They're there, but they are sloppy looking with wide gaps now. And I do NOT over-fire this heater. I regulate the air and my splits aren't too small.

    I also have cast iron cookware from 2 generations ago that is wonderful, with fine pores and just amazing to use. Then I purchased a newer cast iron by Emeril and I was so disappointed. The finish was so gritty the paper towel I was using to season it completely disintegrated. And there's also reports of the handles cracking off. Not to say that you can't get good cookware anymore (try Cracker Barrel, Lodge - excellent!) but you have to be careful.

    Back to heaters...
    I came across this website
    http://www.bernard-davis-stoves.co.uk/

    an English-based manufacturer. They have this to say:

    BD&Co stoves are of cast-iron, made from virgin iron-ore. Many other well-known makes are made only from recycled scrap-steel, which is vastly inferior to iron-ore.

    While this statement is a little misleading, because they're comparing iron to steel, I am curious as to what others on these boards think about virgin ore, and also which manufacturers use it, besides Bernard-Davis.

    And what kind of life expectancy is being realized from modern, quality cast heaters? Do you think the same as my pre-1988?

    I would prefer to buy a heater that's made from the best iron available. Back in the day, it was all about "make it the best quality possible." Now, everything is about cutting corners. It's much harder to identify excellence because of all the hype and marketing.

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. BCC_Burner

    BCC_Burner Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2013
    Messages:
    231
    Loc:
    Wasatch Front: 7800'
    Your 1988 VC wood stove uses recycled cast iron from I believe GM engine blocks. Sorry to burst your bubble.

    That being said, there are plenty of stoves out there today that are just as high quality (some would argue much higher).

    Do you want plate steel, cast iron, a jacketed hybrid of the two, soapstone, etc. Start there, then once you have it narrowed down a general style that fits your taste and budget, delve into the specific design and construction of those models.
    ddddddden and Adios Pantalones like this.
  3. bubbasdad

    bubbasdad Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2012
    Messages:
    88
    Loc:
    Howell, Michigan.
    Those GM blocks are pretty darn good iron. The qc on those things is pretty stringent. Really, apples and oranges, steel stoves, cast iron stoves, different matierals. I think VC stoves would be pretty good in quality.
  4. BCC_Burner

    BCC_Burner Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2013
    Messages:
    231
    Loc:
    Wasatch Front: 7800'
    Oh they definitely were made of good quality cast iron. My point was more that virgin vs recycled doesn't always indicate the quality.

    My parents have a 1988 VC Defiant in a weekend house of theirs in the Adirondacks. Other than electric baseboard in the bathrooms, that is the only heat source. They get up there on Friday nights in the winter and crank that thing up to 800 degrees until the house is comfortable. I've personally seen the thermo on it hit 950 more times than I care to admit, but I've given it a thorough once over and there are no signs of warping or other overfiring hallmarks. Definitely not burning practices you want to emulate, but that's a bomber stove if I've seen one.
  5. Augie

    Augie Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2012
    Messages:
    463
    Loc:
    North Of Canada
    You premise that Recycles iron cast into new metal is inherently inferior to virgin ore made into metal is patently absurd. IT may be that they are purchasing an inferior grade of metal to cast but atoms are atoms...... Your idea is poor science and shows lack of understanding of the process
  6. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2010
    Messages:
    1,696
    Loc:
    Chittenden, VT
    I am not sure if you understand the process either. Cast iron is certainly not just iron but a mixture of iron, carbon, silicon and some other minor elements. (http://www.keytometals.com/articles/art63.htm) Depending on its source and production there can be large differences between cast iron units from different foundries. VC are one of the few stove manufacturers (if not the only one) running their own foundry which gives them great control about the casting process.
  7. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Messages:
    1,889
    Loc:
    SW Washington
    I'm very skeptical that virgin iron has any practical benefit over recycled. It's not like they just melt down a bunch of crap and hope for the best. The recycling process is more refined than that.
  8. Michael Golden

    Michael Golden Burning Hunk

    Joined:
    May 17, 2012
    Messages:
    219
    Loc:
    Cambridge, Ohio
    Friendly guy you are! ;)
  9. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    14,638
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    During the recycling process the foundry can adjust the molten metal by augmenting the properties of the metal to whatever they wish the final product to be. It is ultimately up to the foundry to produce the level of quality product that meets the specs of the buyer for the finished product.

    And it is a commonly accepted notion that recycled materials consumes 60-70% less energy to put back into the market.
  10. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,252
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    It's all chemistry. Metallurgists know the scoop......

    It may be that aircraft aluminum is better from scratch, but I don't think iron is!
  11. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    7,607
    Loc:
    Doylestown, PA
    The marketing department at its finest.
    Kosmik likes this.
  12. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    14,638
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    Brake rotors are sought after for recycling. From what I understand they are VERY high quality materials.
  13. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    45,981
    Loc:
    South Puget Sound, WA
    There are still several I believe. Hergom (Hearthstone), Efel, Jotul, Morso, VC, Dovre and certainly others in Poland, Serbia, Russia and China.

    And there are tons of cool small foundries around the US, some making replacement parts like this one:
    http://auburnstovefoundry.com/about-us/
  14. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    Messages:
    6,389
    Loc:
    S.NH- Mass's smoking section
    Virgin vs. recycled matters little. They can adjust composition as they please. My understanding is that VC was well respected for casting back in da day.

    I know some well respected knife makers that occasionally use leaf springs for very high quality blades. I have serious doubts that old stoves are better quality metal than is used in fine blades (albeit different compositions required).
  15. ddahlgren

    ddahlgren Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2011
    Messages:
    414
    Loc:
    SE CT
    There is cast iron and then there is all other types of cast iron. Depending on the years of the blocks and their intended uses many had high nickel iron that is very tough and fine grained. My understanding is the best iron ore comes from India and referred to as 'mehanite' and what most precision machine tools are made of.
  16. Augie

    Augie Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2012
    Messages:
    463
    Loc:
    North Of Canada
    This was my reply, said in a manner more polite ;) Damn typing on a tablet with no keyboard

    ....
    I am pretty sure I understand the process(MechEng) of producing cast iron and the differences in producing that and Steel, but I would actually say that there is more control with purchasing your iron to cast in ingot form from a large steel foundry already formulated for the properties you desire, and then remelting and casting on site, which I am sure is what VC actually does.
  17. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    Messages:
    6,389
    Loc:
    S.NH- Mass's smoking section
    People here talk like they are making precision ruling engines or formulating superconducting materials. I don't think it's rocket surgery.
    osagebow, pen and webbie like this.
  18. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,252
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    I'd say we are discussing whether the best wheel is round here - or the best ramp inclined.

    This is ancient technology and, when it comes to stoves, hardly even relevant. That is, the grey iron used in most stoves is what is called Class 25 or Class 30, meaning 25-30,000 lbs (per sq inch) of tensile strength. That may be low in terms of iron used for some things, but certainly high enough for something with almost no forces acting against it (not like it's an engine block, etc. with massive explosions, pressures, etc.).

    Even residential cast iron boilers are only tested to 75 PSI or so and run at 12-15.

    There are some exceptions - for instance, certain parts of coal stoves are better when chromium is added...it raises the temperature resistance of the iron.

    Otherwise, it's probably good enough to figure that the engineering of a particular part or entire stove assembly is MUCH more important than whether the iron was made from scrap or ignot. My understanding is that most cast iron is currently made from a combo of pig and scrap.

    Either way, the modern chemistry along with the electric furnaces (temperature control almost perfect), etc. means quality is usually reproducible. We (and VC and Cawley and dozens of others) used to buy our iron from Unicast. It was almost always nearly perfect, even through they used coke to melt and had very old-fashioned methods.
    http://www.unicastco.com/facilities.php
    Adios Pantalones likes this.
  19. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    Messages:
    6,389
    Loc:
    S.NH- Mass's smoking section
    You mean it doesn't have to have the strength of titanium, the flexibility of rubber, and be a part of a complete breakfast- but has to... heat up when you put a fire in it?

    I'm shocked. I will insist on nothing but the finest unobtanium.
    firefighterjake likes this.
  20. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    14,638
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    Pssst. Hey...I know a guy, that has this place that does this thing.....
    Adios Pantalones likes this.
  21. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    Messages:
    6,389
    Loc:
    S.NH- Mass's smoking section
    It's not the guy with the Dom Deluise figure and the safety razors again, is it?
    Jags likes this.
  22. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    14,638
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    Not this time...
  23. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,252
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    I had a funny sales dude - when people would get to questioning him about the steel or iron, he would look at them dead serious and say "this is made from demeneria iron, the finest available"....

    "ooohhhh" they would say, and be done with it.....

    The same would go for glass, etc.
    He'd make up words which no one ever heard....

    At Upland, we actually advertised the class 25 and 30 on our spec sheets - this is from the dealer handbook.
    Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 2.09.11 PM.png
  24. MikoDel

    MikoDel Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2008
    Messages:
    46
    Loc:
    Fort Washington, Pennsylvania
    Thanks for all the input. I'm learning a lot here. And of course, what was I thinking? Just because my old VC is 27 yrs old doesn't mean it can't be made from... GM engine blocks!
    As for the whole virgin/recycled iron topic, I was definitely jumping to conclusions - you showed me that. And with excellent good humor too. (Most of you... !) Bill Cosby made up words that didn't exist in school. He would write something like "latissifar" on an anatomy test when he didn't know the name of a muscle.

    Hate to say it, but in my experience your example of a boiler only adds to my suspicions. I saw a "new" boiler fail long before its design life. In the house I grew up, we replaced our 30-odd yr. old boiler with a Weil McClan (is that name right?) and it cracked in under two years. And that's with scheduled flushings, etc. as the company recommends. Just saying. Rather than be totally paranoid, I'll stick with this thought - If you DO find modern equipment of the quality AND dependability as back-in-the-day, you really did your homework. I find it's rare.

    I do listen to your knowledge and experience. I also have to give some creedance to my direct experience, which is... replacement parts for this heater melt and deform after a few years. It is unlikely these parts are of the same composition as the original iron.

    I'm sure I'm just gonna end up with a beauty non-cat Hearthstone or similar and be very happy if/when the time comes. But I just re-blacked this puppy (see my thread "new griddle gasket VC Intrepid") and she's looking good. I don't wanna type too loud about replacing... she'll hear me.
  25. Model94

    Model94 New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2014
    Messages:
    1
    Loc:
    Southwest Michigan
    Thank you. I thought Augie's response was unnecessarily rude. The funny thing about Fe is that, even after it's used once or twice it remains ... Fe. Foundries making significantly more complex and demanding product than woodstoves use recycled material as much as they can (same is true for steel mills, nickel alloy processers, aluminum foundries, etc. etc.) and not out of some green sense of responsibility. It's cheaper. I've worked in both primary steel and foundry industries.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 3, 2014

Share This Page